So how did Suri deal with the eye patch?
That would be Suri Cruise and her dad, Tom, who famously wears a black pirate-esque patch in his new film, "Valkyrie," a World War II thriller about a plot to assassinate Hitler that opened on Christmas. Cruise plays the coup's real life ringleader, the aristocratic Col. Claus von Stauffenberg. Suri, often touted as the most powerful tot on the planet, would often walk to her dad as he was ready to leave the makeup trailer, and "she would take my eye patch off," says Cruise with his trademark laugh. "The girls in the makeup trailer got her a stuffed bear with a patch on it so that she would play with that and start to feel very comfortable."
Suri wasn't the only one disconcerted by the eye patch. The blogosphere went nuts -- not in a good way -- when images of Cruise in his character's Nazi gear first appeared online, but perhaps that's the fate of being Tom Cruise in the last few years. Every action seems to provoke an unanticipated reaction. Holed up in the Beverly Hills Hotel last week, Cruise is in the middle of the "Valkyrie" press tour, which could also be dubbed the "apology" tour, an elaborate jaunt with stops at some of the media outlets ("Today" show, anyone?) that contributed to his famed couch-jumping, Scientology-spouting, psychiatry-bashing media implosion of 2005.
In a green sweater and jeans, the 46-year-old Cruise is thin, friendly and solicitous, with practically the only visible sign of age being the little laugh lines around his eyes. He also appears relaxed -- one suspects that was helped in part by the presence of his wingmen, director Bryan Singer and Singer's childhood friend, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie. Unlike many of his peers in stardom, Cruise does not seem to travel with a posse of guy pals, an entourage of buddies from before fame; one can almost imagine him living in a hermetically sealed bubble with wife Katie Holmes, his children Suri, Bella and Connor, his sisters and various Scientologists. But that apparently is not the case.
When Cruise is asked if he feels misunderstood, Singer and McQuarrie jump in with the passion of longtime homeboys (well, longtime homies who happen to be intellectual film geeks from Princeton, N.J.). "He's totally misunderstood. Tom, you need to let us talk about you," says Singer, passionately, as Cruise looks on vaguely embarrassed. Singer describes the time they all spent with Tom and his family, he and McQuarrie's circle of family and friends in Germany, and in the desert (where they shot a battle sequence).
"You spend the first two weeks waiting for the . . . that you think Tom is to manifest itself. And after a year and half, you realize that is not who he is. . . . He gets a bad rap."
"He is a really great guy," chimes in McQuarrie. "He's a generous person. He works very hard. He is exceedingly professional. There is no hierarchy of any kind on the set. We would have . . . somebody's mother came to visit the set and Tom would spend the afternoon having lunch with that person's mother."
Cruise is more subdued about the vagaries of being Cruise. "I can't spend my time worrying about it," he says. As a kid, he moved constantly. "I was always the new kid. I went to different schools and I would hear back rumors about where I came from."
Now it's the same phenomenon, but "on a world stage, and sometimes it gets even very extreme and you've got to laugh about it. And some of it you kind of go, OK. OK, as in breathe, be Zen, ignore what you cannot control."
For those who are not Cruise-ologists, here's a recap of the various bad news that afflicted the Cruise world in the last few years. Besides the various dents to his image, Paramount severed its longtime relationship with the superstar after the so-called underperformance of "Mission: Impossible 3." Cruise rebounded by taking over United Artists, but earlier this year his longtime producing partner, Paula Wagner, left amid charges that the duo was not productive enough. Their first film, the political drama "Lions for Lambs," was perhaps the biggest bomb of his career.
Cruise began his image rehab this summer with a hilarious turn as a vulgar studio head in "Tropic Thunder" and received a Golden Globe nomination for his hip-swiveling.
Still, the task is not yet complete. A lot rides on "Valkryie," a $90-million thriller that doesn't exactly shriek holiday good cheer. (Reviews have been mixed to negative.)
The film itself has been dogged with controversy, including the German government's initial reluctance to let the filmmakers shoot in Berlin's Benderblock because of Cruise's practice of Scientology (a policy later rescinded) and changing release dates. And, oh yes, Singer, who's made such films as "X-Men," is also coming off "Superman Returns," a blockbuster so ill-received that it could have conceivably killed the franchise.